Sara Dabney Tisdale in doubleX:
Will the real Jane Austen fans please stand up? Stand up, that is, if you love Jane Austen but are sick and tired of Jane Austen spinoffs. Stand up if you thought Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, a mash-up of Austen’s Pride and Prejudice with “all-new scenes of bone-crunching zombie action,” was a terrible idea. If you cringe in horror every time you see sexed-up paperback titles like Mr. Knightley’s Diary on Austen-themed display tables at your local bookstore. If you are fed up with Austen-mania—the fan fiction, the movies and miniseries, the romance advice books and etiquette guides and detective novels and vampire riffs and cookbooks and choose-your-own-adventures. If you, like me, are a real Jane Austen fan, and you don’t think Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters is funny—you think it’s a crime.
Dear reader, there is hope, and it comes in the form of Susannah Carson’s new book, A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Great Writers on Why We Read Jane Austen. Carson, a doctoral candidate at Yale University, has culled a collection of essays by literary greats such as E.M. Forster, Virginia Woolf, C.S. Lewis, Kingsley Amis, Eudora Welty, and Lionel Trilling, all on the subject of why Jane Austen is not only worth reading but worth reading over and over again. The book is a refreshing triumph over the muck of Jane Austen spinoffs that blight our current culture.
Or is it? After all, every fan of Jane Austen fan thinks she is a real fan of Jane Austen – that her understanding of and empathy with Austen surpasses that of other readers, that she and she alone fully appreciates and savors Austen’s merits.